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Let Russ Cook Tracker, Week 3: Texas-style BBQ

Ho-hum, five more touchdowns

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
i give russ five stars
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Russ cooked again.

But did they let him, or did it just happen on its own, because he threw 5.99 touchdowns in Week 3 and that’s just what he does every game now?

The main criticism of the Seattle Seahawks brass, from 2012 through the most recent offseason, has always been that they don’t unleash the firepower of their fully operational Russell Wilson until later than is optimal. So the Tracker never measures whether or not he cooked, just whether he was allowed to.

Some explanations before our charts appear, since questions have been asked:

A) The grades are cumulative and represent whether or not the team is meeting goals I set ahead of the season:

  • 55-45 pass-run splits on early downs in neutral game state
  • Less than 25 percent runs on 2nd and long
  • Giving Wilson designed runs before the fourth quarter*
  • Trusting RW on 4th and short past midfield more often than the 22 percent they did in 2019.

*more on this in a future week, where we look at all his 2019 and 2020 runs to see what’s changed and what hasn’t

B) The second down category seeks to penalize the Seahawks for running on 2nd and 9 or more to go. However, two rushes that I included last week deserve to be removed entirely from consideration. The illegal forward pass play from Week 2, where Wilson stepped across the line then fired a no-no to Jacob Hollister, went in the books as a one-yard rushing play. Gone. We won’t be injecting deceptive data into the tracker. And then the 2nd and 26 handoff to Travis Homer just before the half, again against the Patriots, likewise skews the statistics. Toast too.

Stats that measure something different than what you’re trying to measure aren’t stats worth using. We want to see if the Seahawks are behaving more cooky on second down. Irrelevant or misleading data doesn’t help. I adore numbers. I nerd, and will always nerd proudly. But to be a slave to statistics is to misunderstand their true purpose.

C) Other writers and analysts will go with slightly different measures — they’ll compute neutral game state their own way, or set the cutoff at 8 or 10 or 12 yards to define “long,” or ignore the last two tracker categories altogether. It’s fortunate you landed in the one place where someone, your faithful obedient servant, made all the right decisions.

Straight to the graphs. Let us begin with early-down passing, before the full tracker, because oh my god what the hell is this sorcery.

Get your foam fingers out of storage, because we might get to use them. Somehow, the Seattle Seahawks, a team coached by Peter Carroll, are passing more frequently on early downs in neutral game script than anybody except the Kansas City Chiefs, a team coached by Andy Reid. It’s a miracle. It’s an early Halloween miracle. Because it’s spooky.

Let Russ Cook Tracker, Week 3

Category 2019 This Week 2020 to date LRC grade
Category 2019 This Week 2020 to date LRC grade
Pass/run neutral sit. 51-49 63-37 62-38 A
Runs on 2nd & 9+ 61 / 166, 37% 5 / 12, 42% 7 / 24, 29% B-
RW designed runs 11 / 31 1 / -1 3 / 48 A-
4th & short choices 6 of 25 1 for 2 2 for 5 B+

It was a bad week, on the other hand, for first down-performance by the Seahawks. In the first half they gained all of 90 yards on 19 first-down snaps, for a paltry average of 4.6 yards per play. Wilson threw for two scores on first down, but in the other 17 instances, Seattle gained 2 or fewer yards a dozen (!) times. Yikes.

As a result, the Seahawks found themselves in 2nd and 9+ a bunch on Sunday, where they elected to pass only a slim majority of the time, on seven of 12 opportunities. For as much progress as Seattle has made in general, second down still appears to be a situation where they can’t help themselves. One understands the reluctance to go pass-pass-pass, but pass-run-pass isn’t any less predictable, and stands to set up more difficult third down conversions.

As said previously, RW rushing patterns are a superb topic for another day. Less than two days after Seahawks 38, Cowboys 31, it’s still baffling to recount how good of a game that was, without much of a contribution from Russell’s legs.

Fourth downs started off poorly, with a dubious punt from the Dallas 47 on 4th and 4, but with the game on the line late in the game, Wilson found Greg Olsen across the middle for 11 on exactly the kind of play the veteran was brought in to produce.

Oh, and by the way, Let Russ Cook has gone mainstream. Witness this segment from ESPN Countdown on Sunday morning before the game. Hard to believe this aired on the largest sports channel in the world. Many thanks to Mina Kimes for making it happen.

So what does Wilson do, under all the pressure and expectations? Casually, on a day he was less than totally sharp, he finishes one brain fart away from delivering six touchdown passes. He settles “instead” for establishing a new all-time record for most scores thrown in a season’s first three games, with 14 teeders. Not a terrible consolation prize.

In Week 2, one reason Seattle had to come up with a goal-line stop to win was the inability of the offense to convert on 3rd and 1 with a deep throw.

Wilson and DK Metcalf, the man who would’ve been the goat — except now he’s free to become the GOAT instead — teamed up on third down to make sure it wouldn’t happen again against Dallas.

That’s some home cooking. Can we have some more, sirs?